Hi! My name is Zachary Meer and I am a fresh college graduate of St. Olaf College who is embarking on a three week SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) expedition down the Mississippi River. I will complete this trip self-supported (aka camping along the way and carrying my own food), and I will be doing the entirety of the trip by myself, although I may be joined by friends and family along the way. I will be starting at Lake Itasca and I hope to reach the Minnesota/Iowa boarder, but to do so will require me to paddle approximately 30 miles per day, which would equate to about 7 hours of paddling each day–a hefty goal!

I’ve decided to do this trip for a few reasons. First, to grow as a person and learn more about myself. Second, to celebrate graduating college! And third, to raise awareness of the health and environmental dangers of indoor cooking fires and raise $1000 for Stove Team International, a non-profit committed to assisting “local entrepreneurs in Latin America establish factories to build fuel-efficient cookstoves.” Check out more about Stove Team at http://www.stoveteam.org.

The need for a safer alternative to open cooking fires is immense. According to Stove Team, “smoke from indoor cooking fires is a leading cause of death of children under age five, and the world’s largest environmental killer. It kills eight times as many people as malaria.” “Daily cooking is the equivalent to mothers and children smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.” By solving this one problem, Stove Team is addressing four different major issues, all relevant to today:

  • Health problems and death by smoke inhalation and burns for families impacted by indoor cooking fires
  • Carbon emissions
  • Deforestation
  • Poverty and unemployment

And this is all done through building fuel-efficient cookstoves.

Stove Team has come up with an innovative stove design and a business model that are both very effective. The stove is fuel-efficient, reducing carbon emissions by 70% and wood use by over 50%. To the families this means minimal smoke is inhaled, especially by the infants and toddlers who cannot leave their mother’s side when she cooks, and they spend less than 10 hours a week gathering firewood, instead of over 20 hours a week, which frees up time to work elsewhere and potentially make money! To the environment, this helps protect the O-Zone layer and slows deforestation immensely. The stove is also cheap, with an average sale price of $55-$65, is portable and doesn’t require installation or a chimney, and is built using local materials such as concrete, pumice, or low-fired tile.

And as amazing as the stove is, their business model may actually take the cake. Stove Team International works with local entrepreneurs to start up factories to produce these stoves, working until these factories become self-sustaining. These locally run factories provide jobs for the community. Stove Team is also active in the communities where these factories distribute, making sure that the stove remains effective for the families that use them. They are enabling these communities to work themselves to better lives! Not just throwing stoves at them to try to fix their problems.

This cause is something I believe is important, and I hope you also see that the need is there. With my goal to raise $1000, we can provide stoves for 20 families in need. Twenty families! Just $50 purchases a stove for a family in need.

I hope you’ll help me reach this goal!

IMPORTANT: If you decide to donate to my cause, go to Stove Team’s donate page at http://www.stoveteam.org/donate.htm. Fill out the form, donate any amount you like, and then under “Tribute Type” select “In honor of” and under “Tribute Information” enter “ZacPaddlesForStoves“. This will help the Stove Team staff identify who is donating through my cause so we can track how much we’ve raised! If you would rather donate with cash or a check, please either mail it to me at 38253 Co Rd 152, Albany, MN 56307, or mail it to or drop it off in person at Clear Waters Outfitting.

Thanks for your consideration and/or contribution!

This trip wouldn’t be possible without the help of many people. I’d like to thank each of my sponsors:

  • Clear Waters Outfitting, for supplying most of my camping and miscellaneous paddling gear, and for taking care of all of the odds and ends as I prepare for this expedition.
  • Pau Hana Surf Supply, for graciously allowing me to use one of their SUPs, a rad Cadence 14′, and outfitting it for me. Pau Hana means “Time after work” and the company embodies fun and play through their dedication to the SUP sport. It’s been a blast working with them!
  • and Werner Paddle, for giving me the means to propel myself down the river with an awesome SUP paddle!

I’d also like to thank my family and friends for their continued support of me and my trip! I’m especially grateful to my dad for his immense amount of help and wisdom in planning for this trip, and for taking the leap to start CW Outfitting with my mom, which brought paddling to the fore-front of my life. Thanks to all of you!

Okay, now lets get to this trip! I hope you enjoy what you read here!